Temperatures reached a sweltering 91 degrees at Howard High, site of yesterday's Class 1A-2A semifinal, and 15th-ranked Centennial was just as hot in taking its 14th straight victory -- a 13-6 romp over Hereford.
P.J. Paolisso had three goals and three assists, followed by Ben Ryan (one, five), Joe Iannarino (three, two) and Drew Cothran (four goals) as the Eagles of coach Mike Siegert earned the right to face defending champ Towson 8 p.m. Tuesday at UMBC.
Justin Vittori scored a goal and added an assist and also combined with Paolisso to win 11 of 17 faceoffs. Adding those won by Eric Jones, Centennial took 14 of 21 draws overall.
Centennial, a 5-3 leader at halftime, had assists on all but one goal, erased a 3-3 first-quarter tie with a 4-0 run over the second and third periods and pulled away with a 4-1 fourth-quarter run.
"We came out a little slow in the first half, but we stepped it up like we should in the second half," Ryan said.
The Eagles, losers of their season-opening game to Annapolis, now focus on not allowing history to repeat itself.
Centennial was a state semifinalist both in 1992 and '93, and a state runner-up in '94. Then, with every player returning from the previous year, the '95 squad faltered in the region finals.
"I don't want any of the kids dancing around yet," Siegert said. "No dancing. No relaxing until it's over. We have groups of seniors who want a different legacy."
Hereford out-shot Centennial, 8-2, to start the second half, but that's when keeper Mike Schmidt (14 saves) stood tall behind defenders Chad Orzechowski, Drew Enstince and John Anacker, deflecting three close-range shots. Both Todd Smith (one goal) and Nick Glorioso (one goal) had shots hit the pipe.
"We were in good shape at halftime, but we missed some nice opportunities against a very good team that's been pounding people," said Hereford coach Whit Warlow, who is moving to North Dakota for two years after winning a state crown in 1996, two region titles and compiling a 56-21 record.
Down 7-3 early in the third quarter, Hereford's Luke Gilbert scored two of his three goals to bring the Bulls to within 7-5 with 5: 44 left in the period.
The Bulls got no closer as Centennial scored six of the game's final seven goals, including the final five.
While Towson won its fifth title of the decade last season and the sixth for Baltimore County, the last Howard County state title was won in 1991 by Mount Hebron, a state finalist in '92, '95, '96 and '97.
"As far as motivation, that's big," said Paolisso, whose squad stopped Mount Hebron's 30-game regular-season winning streak against Howard County foes and kept the Vikings from winning their fourth straight county crown.
"It's always been Mount Hebron, but we've beaten them twice this year," Paolisso said. "Now it's our time for some respect."
Pub Date: 5/17/98